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Bethpage (Black), USA

Bethpage (Black)  has hosted US Open several times and designed by A.W. Tillinghast. Bethpage is also home to 5 other public courses and is about 1 hour drive from Manhattan depending on traffic. I have read many stories around getting tee times and sleeping overnight. I tried to book through the complicated phone system and did not succeed, so instead I decided to try my chances with the walk-up times during the morning. It was a friday in september and I left Manhattan at 4AM and got there at 5AM, where I took the 13th spot on the parking lot. I went to have a chat with the guy parked next to me (Ed from Ireland) who was a regular at the course. He explained the procedure to me and as usual the attendant showed up at 05.30AM and handed out numbers. We drove to the clubhouse car park and joined the cue for a tee time.

waiting for tee time allocation
waiting for tee time allocation

It did not take long at I got 08.12AM together with Ed and 2 other players, where one of them also was a regular visitor. I was pleased to get out relatively early and this was mainly due to some of the earlier people to arrive was playing the other courses and apparently some people still get there early to get out on the first tee slots and go around the course quickly.  You get a wrist band and matching tee time ticket. The wrist band is removed on the 1st tee. We went for breakfast at the restaurant – Taste 99

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After breakfast the sun was getting up and I went to have a look in the proshop for a souvenir. I ended up getting a towel with the well-known “warning” statement from the 1st tee printed on it. I have visited so many different pro shops around the world on great golf courses and have stopped buying too many souvenirs as is just stacks up at home. Many of the Proshops have similar merchandise and even though it is tempting to get 1 item from each place as a memory from all the courses, I have decided to let this blog and pictures be my ultimate souvenir.

Next stop the driving range, which Ed had already warned me was nothing special and it is difficult to disagree with him. The driving range and clubhouse is where you see the difference to some of private clubs where the invest more money is creating nice facilities as well as on the course.

Driving range
Driving range

After 20 balls on the range I went to the first tee and practiced my putting.

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1st tee is organized well and you are expected to be there 20 minutes before your tee time where you line up and wait for the start to call your tee time. It is especially good as you get a view of everybody teeing of on the first hole and a chance to get the compulsory picture below…2016-09-23-08-03-08

It was tee off time and I decided to play from the white tees even though it was tempting to go Blues together with one of my playing partners that was a regular on the course and a 2 hcp. As expected I would realize during my round that the white tees are difficult enough…

approach to 1st green
approach to 1st green

I hit a good drive down the fairway and left myself a 6 iron approach shot which I unfortunately missed right into the green side bunker. Really good bunker shot and what should have been an easy putt that I missed. There is limited break on the greens and even though you see a break it is better to hit it inside the hole as I found out on the 1st green. I did not believe it was straight and missed it.

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2nd hole a short par 4 dogleg left.

I hit my drive a bit long in the rough, but managed to get my second shot on the green. It is severely up hill and you can hardly see the pin.

approach to 2nd hole
approach to 2nd hole
3rd hole par 3
3rd hole par 3

3rd is a good looking par 3 where you do not want to go long. I found the front side sand trap and made bogey.

Par 5, 4th hole
Par 5, 4th hole

This is a really good par 5 and where I really found out how difficult the course can play. I hit my drive just a bit too long and ended up the rough. Decided to hit an iron over the big bunker to give myself a wedge to the green. Good plan, but I did not get good contact from the heavy rough which meant going into the bunker. Poor bunker shot that came up short into the next bunker and my first but not last double bogey of the round. Needless to say that the rough is as difficult as you hear and in many cases you just have to play out and see it as a penalty.

Par 4, 5th hole
Par 4, 5th hole

A good looking dogleg right where you drive is as important as ever. I hit a good drive, but just missed the fairway and being in the rough I couldn’t get in on the green and made bogey.

Tee shot on 7th
Tee shot on 6th
approach to 6th
approach to 6th

A really good drive will take you down the bottom of the hill on 6th, but there really no need to take that risk as it is a short par 4 and it is better to be on the top of hill with a full shot in my opinion. I hit the sand trap on the right side of the fairway and got on the green in 2 shots – made par.

Par 5, 7th
Par 5, 7th

A severe dogleg right, where I was pleased to get the line from my playing partners. I hit a good drive just left of the trees and was in the fairway with 220 yards to the green.

approach to 7th
approach to 7th

Missed the green, but got a par anyway. It is a good birdie opportunity, especially if your tee shot is good.

7th green
7th green
Par 3, 8th
Par 3, 8th

It was playing 165 yards downhill and hit a 7 iron to the middle of the green. Only hole with water in play.

big bunker on 9th hole
big bunker on 9th hole

A relatively short par 4, but almost 90 degree dogleg left where the fairway is definitely preferable as on all holes for Bethpage Black.

approach to 9th
approach to 9th

I found the fairway with my drive and was left with 170 yards to the green and another pin where you couldn’t see the bottom of the pin. Didnt hit my approach shot well and went in the bunker – another bogey and out in 42 shots which was reasonable as I didn’t feel like I had played to well anyway.

10th tee shot
10th tee shot

One of the longer par 4s, but a straight forward drive – however quite narrow fairway. I went in the lefthand rough and into the front green bunker, which left myself below shot.

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As you can see a deep bunker and a good time to hit my best bunker shot of the day that ended up 1m from the hole. Very rewarding par on this hole.

tee shot on 12th
tee shot on 12th

Another blind tee shot where I thank my playing partners for the line. I hit my drive over the bunkers and in the fairway. I hit a good second shot that was in the fringe. Managed to get my par on a difficult par 4.

repairing turf
nice to see the staff out repairing turf
12th green
12th green
tee shot on 13th
tee shot on 13th
2nd shot on 13th
2nd shot on 13th
13th green
13th green

13th is the last par 5 and one of the more generous fairways on the course. The second shot is more tricky and preferably go over the bunker and leave a short pitch to the green. I hit the fairway but missed my second left of the bunker in the fairway. Got on the green and made par.

Par 3, 14th
Par 3, 14th

Short par 3 with a large green. Run off on the back of the green and you do not want to go long. I hit the GIR and 2 putted for par.

Par 4, 15th
Par 4, 15th

A long par 4 dogleg left with elevated green and well bunkered short of the green. Requires 2 good shots to get on the green.

view from 15th fairway
view from 15th fairway

I hit a really poor drive OB left and made par with my second ball for a double bogey – obviously not the way  to play it.

16th
16th

A long par 4 where the fairway is a must to give yourself a good chance of reaching the green. I missed it right, but somehow managed to get the ball on the green and 2 putt for par.

typical rough lie that might not look too bad, but it is really difficult to get good contact and advance the ball significantly
typical rough lie that might not look too bad, but it is really difficult to get good contact and advance the ball significantly
Par 3, 17th
Par 3, 17th

Uphill par 3 on a 178 yards. You really need to hit the number to stay on the green. It came up short in the bunker and made bogey.

17th bunker shot
17th bunker shot
18th tee shot
18th tee shot

Even though it is a short finishing hole I really like the design of bunkers in the landing area. You need to decide whether to play safe short and leave a longer second shot uphill to the green or risk the bunkers. I hit my driver left in the bunkers, but got on the green in two and made par.

I shot 81 with 2 double bogeys and 9 bunker shots. Didnt play great, but managed to get around in a decent score anyway. Didnt make any birdies and only really had 1 good chance.

I have been reflecting on my view of the course after playing it a couple of days ago. My expectations where high and I was probably expecting an even better course. Maybe it is because I do not like playing to greens where you can not see the bottom of the flag and prefer links type courses running along the ocean. It is a good course and it was in good shape. I like the way bunkers have been placed and designed to make it both challenging and beautiful, but after playing many courses I have higher overall expectations to the courses. It is an”easy” difficult course, meaning that if you play well from the tee it is not that difficult to get a decent score. There is only water on one hole and the bunkers are playable, so there are limited problems. The rough is the real penalty and for me also the layout where you can’t see the approach shots makes it more challenging.

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